My intent with every training session is to better my previous session, whether it’s with a singular action of increasing load, sets, reps or a combination of them all. However, the goal is to never sacrifice my form for the sake of doing more volume, as that elevates my risk of injury and diminishes intent on the muscle I’m targeting. When form breaks down, that’s where intent on the targeted muscle gets lost as well and the risk of injury heightens, as no doubt momentum or body English step in to assist in completing the work. The combination of these two factors can surely be counterproductive.
For me personally, when I happen to break form in a set, it’s more often due to losing composure with the final, more challenging reps. Energy that should remain channeled on form starts to get lost and heads towards heightened anxiety, excessive grunting, facial grimacing, and uncontrolled breathing. This is not what I want, as what I’m truly after is efficiency throughout an entire set just. My goal is to resemble what you see when you watch tennis legend Pete Sampras, who serves with flawless mechanics, pristine flow, power and accuracy.
There’s a lot to learn outside the realm of bodybuilding. High performance in many sports relies on great mechanics, poise and control. Personally speaking, I want to look like a Pete Sampras when I lift. I want my first rep on my first set to look exactly like the last rep of my last set, just slower, even when the demand is increasingly higher and higher with each successive rep. How do I achieve that? By having awareness of my emotions while lifting.
When a set gets into the final stages where each rep becomes more of a dog fight, I ensure to stay in control of my emotions. I don’t panic, I stay relaxed in the fight. I keep command of my power, breathing, facial expressions and I try to prevent form breakdown. From the first to the last rep, the intention is on getting as much out of the target muscle as possible while minimizing risk of injury.
My big picture goal is of course to increase my overall volume, as that’s key for improvement, but only with mechanics that resemble a Pete Sampras. Only when the technical quality and skill is perfect, will I look to add more volume via load, sets, reps or a combination of them all. This is how I know I’m adding quality volume. Often, I get asked how I’ve made it to year 33 of my training career. What’s my answer? Awareness and control of my emotions while lifting. This factor has played a significant role to my longevity.
My take home message that while we all want to make fast progress, we don’t want to be the guy driving to work recklessly. Don’t be the person anxiously speeding past all the other cars carelessly, only to come to the same red light as everyone else. For me, I’m going to be the guy driving to work, listening to John Legend, drinking a smooth cup of coffee, cruising the speed limit, and pulling up at the same red light as the anxious speeder. When I arrive at that same red light, I’ll turn my head towards him, give him a relaxed nod while holding up my cup of coffee and then precede on my way to work stress free while getting the most effective and efficient use out of my car.